It's Time for Judaism 3.0 | Opinion

With a spike in antisemitic incidents and statements, the Biden administration last week announced the establishment of a new inter-agency task-force to develop a national strategy to counter what has been called the world's oldest hatred.

Indeed, what is needed is a comprehensive strategy, core to which is understanding the shifting nature of contemporary threats to Jews and to Judaism.

Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the Jewish state, concluded in the 1890s that European opposition to Judaism is chronic and adjusts based on changing European and Jewish circumstances. Some in his time believed that since Europe is becoming increasingly secular, Jew-hatred, expressed until then through religious frameworks, was over. Yet, it quickly became evident that a new threat was emerging. Towards the end of the 19th century,this form of secular opposition, based on the national and racial aspect of Judaism, was given a new name: antisemitism.

There were debates at the time of where to draw the line between "legitimate criticism" of Jews and outright Jew-hatred. Some antisemites argued their objective was merely to reform the Jews for the Jews' own benefit. Yet, within a few short decades, this virulent and "scientific" form of antisemitism became entrenched in the European mainstream, serving as the ideological basis for the genocide of European Jews.

125 Anniversary of First Zionist Conference
A presenter shows a picture of Theodor Herzl on Aug. 29 during celebrations of the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress at the historic Stadtcasino in Basel, Switzerland, where Herzl convened the first congress that paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

Today, some 80 years since the Holocaust, the juxtaposition of the genocide with the establishment and astonishing success of the Jewish state have altered the nature of contemporary Jew-hatred. American Jews, surprised by its rapid rise, suddenly face intense opposition from two directions:

One vector is the political right, as seen in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, with white people carrying torches and shouting "Jews will not replace us." President Biden has said the event was an impetus behind his decision to run for president.

The other vector is from the left: The rising fashion of Israel-bashing is rapidly penetrating the American mainstream, along with its arsenal of slanderous allegations against the Jewish state. False allegations like the claims that the Jewish state commits crimes against humanity, is perpetrating a genocide, assaults Palestinian women, are merely new manifestations of old slanders and libels. Once again, a global belief is instilled that Jews—this time through the Jewish state—pollute humanity.

As the taskforce begins its work, it is important to recognize that those two vectors have radically different threat dynamics. The bulk of the danger to individual Jews and to the survival of Judaism no longer lies with the traditional antisemitism of the 20th century, but rather with the Israel-bashing of the 21st.

Israel-related attacks account for about 60 percent to 80 percent of violent incidents against American Jews, according to Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the United States. Indeed, it has become the "dominant variant" of Jew-hatred.

While governments no longer round-up Jews under the ideology of antisemitism, multi-national organizations, such as the International Criminal Court and the United Nations, can deliver paralyzing blows to Judaism through the Jewish state.

Let me be clear, Jews cannot escape their association with Israel. Simply saying "I am not affiliated with those other Jews" has never worked—not during the Inquisition more than five-centuries ago, not in the Holocaust, and certainly not now. Attackers do not check victims' Facebook posts before attacking Jews. Indeed, according to The Anti-Defamation League's Oren Segal, perpetrators blame "Jews, all Jews, whether they support the State of Israel or not."

And yet, while the crux of the threat to Jews is through Israel-bashing, much of the American Jewish establishment spends their efforts defending against traditional antisemitism. So much, that some who claim they have "zero-tolerance" for more traditional antisemitism, actively participate in Israel-bashing.

Much can be learned from Herzl's efforts to craft a national strategy to combat Antisemitism back in the 1890s, and the Biden administration can study them.

Herzl understood that since Antisemitism was becoming dogmatic, and dogmatic minds cannot be changed, a paradigm-shift was needed: The Jewish state would not only provide a safe home for Jews and a platform to engage with the opposition, but it would also make immense contributions to humanity, and hence would become necessary to the world: Peace through strength.

Today, as Israel-bashing becomes dogmatic, a paradigm-shift is again needed, and that shift is rather simple: Recognize that Judaism has transformed.

Whether one likes it or not, Zionism has become the primary conduit through which both Jews and non-Jews relate to Judaism—in positive and negative ways alike. It is the one aspect of Judaism that evokes passion, anger, emotions, and engagement. Zionism is becoming the anchor of Judaism (Judaism 3.0) in the same way that Judaism's religious aspect was its anchor in the last 2,000 years (Judaism 2.0).

These next-generation antisemites argue that attacking the Jewish state has nothing to do with Jews or Judaism itself. They see a daylight between Jews and the Jewish State that does not exist and use it as a cover for their own antisemitism.

This allows people to attack Jews while claiming that they have learned the lessons of the Holocaust.

Jews and Judaism are inseparable from Israel. The propensity to bash Israel in the media, through gullible students, and multination organizations fuels the threat to American Jews. Would it be acceptable if it were acknowledged that Israel bashing is Jew-bashing?

This recognition should be a cornerstone in the administration's strategy to counter Jew-hatred.

Recognizing that Zionism is now the anchor of Judaism would also provide a "ladder" for some Israel-bashers to climb down, following the lead of Arabs in the Middle East, including many Palestinians, who previously opposed Israel, but now wish to benefit from the ingenuity that is coming out of Zion.

Gol Kalev analyzes long-term trends in Zionism, Europe and Global Affairs. He is the author of Judaism 3.0: Judaism's transformation to Zionism (judaism-zionism.com).

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.